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Robert D. Fritschen

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LAUREL — Robert D. Fritschen, 85, Laurel, died April 22, 2021, at Unity Point Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa.

Funeral Services were April 27 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Laurel, with Rev. Jerry Connealy officiating.

Burial was in the Laurel Cemetery. Pallbearers were Matt Dohma, Spencer Lowe, Mitch Lanser, Joe Kolbach and Don Pritchard.

Visitation and a rosary were Monday at church, and continued one hour prior to the service Tuesday.

Arrangements were under the direction of the Wintz Funeral Home, Laurel.

Services were also livestreamed at

Robert D. Fritschen was born Nov. 27, 1935, to Andrew C. and Matilda (Wehner) Fritschen in Mitchell, S.D. He was baptized in St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Farmer, S.D. Bob grew up on the family farm near Spencer, S.D., and attended school at St. Peter’s grade school and Edgerton Consolidated High School, both in Farmer. He was offered an athletic scholarship to attend college but stayed on the farm to help his parents until he was 23. He then enrolled at South Dakota State University, Brookings, S.D., where he earned his bachelor of science and master of science degrees, graduating in 1963. While in graduate school he also managed the first co-ed dorm in the history of the University.

Bob married a childhood friend and sweetheart, Hazel Robinson May 3, 1958, in Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, Spencer, S.D. Two daughters were born to them, Annette and Annita Kay. Following graduation from college in 1963, Bob went to work for the University of Nebraska, starting out in Scottsbluff. He was transferred to Northeast Research and Extension near Concord, in 1965 to develop a swine research program. He raised money from farmers/ business donors and built a complex of buildings to study housing management needs for growing/finishing pigs. In a few years, his work was known nationally and internationally. He was very active in the swine industry and established Nebraska’s first Area Swine Producers Association in 1966. He was invited to 29 countries and nearly every state in the Union to speak and report on his studies. He designed a building for growing/finishing pigs that at one time was the most popular style in the country, known as the Nebraska Modified Open Front Building. The Canadian Government asked for and received permission to use the plans for their swine industry. For his extensive work, he was nationally recognized three times, including the National Extension Award from the American Society of Animal Science and the United States Superior Service Award from the Unites States Department of Agriculture. In 1981, he received the National Hog Farmer Award for outstanding service to the nation’s swine industry. He was named to Who’s Who in Agriculture Higher Education, and Personalities of America as well as American Men and Women of Science. Bob was a prolific writer and wrote articles for many swine related publications including the British Pig Farming Magazine. His fact sheets on space requirements for pigs and tail biting are still in use today by the National Pork Producer’s Council. Several of his fact sheets have been translated into Spanish. While at Concord, he organized a 4-H club and was co-leader for ten years and served 4-H in numerous volunteer roles.

In 1979, Bob was transferred to Scottsbluff where he assumed the role of Associate Director of the Panhandle Research and Extension Center. From there he transferred to Lincoln, where he taught the Swine Production course and was responsible for coordinating the Statewide Swine Extension Program. Later he was promoted to Director of the Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff, where he established a Distance Learning Center to make the resources of the University more available to people in remote places. In 1992, he was asked to take on a similar role at the Northeast Research and Extension Center, partnering with Northeast Community College to build a Learning Center in Norfolk. For his pioneering work on distance learning, Bob was awarded the Distinguished Education Service Award from the University of Nebraska in 1997. In 1998, after 35 years with the University of Nebraska, Bob retired with the title of Professor Emeritus.

In retirement, Bob stayed active. He helped establish the Laurel Community Foundation of which he and Hazel were contributors. He was instrumental in developing a TeamMate mentoring chapter at the local school and coordinated the program and mentored students for six years. Bob also served on the city council for 11 years and helped establish an economic development office for Laurel and served as an advisory board member.

He was a member of the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement and a Trustee and served as Secretary Treasurer. He was also a member of Agriculture Builders of Nebraska Inc. and chaired the University of Nebraska Distance Learning Advisory committee. In 2006, Bob received the Knights of Ark Sar Ben Ike Friedman Community Leader Award.

Bob wrote and published two books after he retired. He was an avid fisherman and while he fished from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada, his favorite locale was the family fishing camp in the Black Hills called Thunderbird Roost near Deerfield Lake. The most important elements in his life were his family and his faith.

Bob is survived by his wife, Hazel, Laurel; daughter, Annette Pritchard, Laurel; granddaughters, Susan Pritchard, Sioux Falls, S.D.; Lori (Spencer) Lowe, Lincoln; Amy (Matt) Dohma, Newcastle; grandson, John (Aleta) Thomas, Grand Island; great-grandchildren, Cade Dohma, Taylor Lowe, Lily Thomas, Piper Thomas; son-in-law, John Thomas, Aurora; two sisters, Marian (Julius) Schultz, Sioux Falls, S.D.; Geraldine Oberembt, Mitchell, S.D.; sister-in-law, Ruby Fritschen, Great Falls, Mont.; and many fishing buddies, friends, nieces, nephews and cousins.

He was preceded in death his parents, Andrew and Matilda Fritschen; daughter, Annita Kay Thomas; sons-in-law, David Pritchard and Randy Lanser; two sisters, Marjorie (Gene) Kolbach and Beverly Guenther; and brother, Andy Fritschen.

The family requests any memorials to be directed to the Laurel Community Foundation or Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, Laurel.